A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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British slang equivalent for Balls or Bollocks dating from the mid-20th century.

Naff/Naff off

British slang for tasteless or inferior dates from the 1930s but made a revival during the 1970s. It is now used in a variety of ways, for example, na...

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Nail in someone’s coffin

see Put a nail in someone’s coffin

Nail something

see Hit the nail on the head

Naked eye

Naked here means unassisted by any aid to vision, such as a telescope or binoculars and the expression dates from the 17th century.

Naked truth

Naked here means uncovered, stripped of all concealment and this usage of the word dates from the late 14th/ early 15th century as in a naked sword i....

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A namby-pamby is a weak, insipid, spineless person. The expression first appears in 1725 as the title of a poem by Henry Carey (1687-1743). In this po...

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Name in lights

To have one's name in lights means to be famous or noted for something or other and dates from the early 1900s. It derives from the days of music hall...

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Name is mud

The figurative meaning of mud as something worthless or polluting dates from the 1500s, but this specific construction was first cited in the early 19...

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British slang for a silly fool dates from the mid-20th century and is a children’s abbreviation of banana.


To sleep for a short time, usually during the day, derives from an Old English word knappian that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. See also Catch some...

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British slang from the late 19th century for a police informer as in ‘a copper’s nark’. The OED gives its origin as the Romany word, nak, meaning nose...

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Nasty piece of work

see Piece of work


Once considered slang but is now Standard English for smart or spruce, as in nattily dressed. It dates from the late 18th century and has etymological...

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Nature of the beast

The nature of the beast is an expression that refers to the usually undesirable inherent or essential quality or character of a person, thing, event,...

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